Richard Clarke, top anti-terrorism adviser to several presidents — Republican and Democrat — has written a bombshell of a book about the Bush administration’s handling of terrorist threats. Clarke’s revelations have shaken up the White House. Clarke charges that Bush paid him no mind when he brought the issue of the threat of an Al Qaeda attack to the president’s attention before September 11, 2001. Clarke further charges that he was pressed by Bush to get evidence that would justify an assault on Iraq.
Clarke repeated these charges under oath before a congressional committee investigating the government’s failure to detect and act on the warning signs of a terrorist assault.
As of this writing, the only answers offered by the administration do not attempt to disprove Clarke’s charges. Instead, the White House has indulged in using a logical fallacy, called argumentum ad hominem. Instead of refuting the charges, the answer has been to disparage Clarke’s motives. To wit: Clarke is making these charges because he is a secret Democrat, because he was passed over for promotion, because he wants a big readership for his book. All of which or none of which may be true. Yet the administration does not seem to feel called upon to explain. And maybe Bush and his well-oiled friend Vice President Dick Cheney have good reason not to reveal their real reason.
The real reason may run all the way back to the 1950s in Iran. After the 1951 assassination of Iran’s Prime Minister Ali Razmara, Mohammed Mossadegh took his place and nationalized the oil industry. The British were furious. Iran was No. 2, on the heels of Saudi Arabia, in oil output. The Brits contacted the U.S. for a joint venture. The CIA and its British counterpart met in Cyprus to draft plans to oust Mossadegh. They were successful in a 1953 coup that killed 300. The lords of oil in the U.K. and the United States cheered.
But they were not satisfied. Close behind Iran in oil output comes Iraq. Saddam Hussein nationalized the oil industry shortly after he came to power. There were no viable forces in Iraq to oust Hussein. The only way to do in Iraq what the U.K. and the United States did in Iran was to wage a war that would bring “regime change.”
But what reason was there for the U.S. to declare war on Iraq? No doubt, Bush was eager to hear from Clarke that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Clarke’s generalized warnings about a terror machine (Al Qaeda) must have seemed like a distraction.
Bush and Clarke probably never imagined anything like September 11. But when it came, it stirred the fear and fury among the American people that were skillfully exploited to justify a pre-emptive war, although Hussein had nothing at all to do with September 11.
At present, U.S. policy is not to denationalize the Iraqi oil industry. Why indulge in such a takeover when there is no need to do so? If Iraq becomes a client state of the U.S., Uncle Sam (read Cheney and Bush) would in effect control Iraq’s oil industry. The key word here is “if.” Whether Iraq can be turned into a submissive satellite is iffy and, in retrospect, our pre-emptive war may prove to have been a blunder. All of which might make good reading in a book titled “Malice in Blunderland.”